1. Decide if you need a shared trust. If you are married and you own most of your property together, a shared trust may be the right way to go. Your other simple choice is to create more individual trusts. That would allow you to have different beneficiaries and management people.
2. Decide what items to leave in the trust. You probably don’t want to hold all your property in your trust – just the big-ticket items that are headed for probate unless you act.
3. Decide who will inherit your trust property. For most people, choosing family members, friends, or charities to inherit property is easy. You can choose to keep yourself as a “Lifetime beneficiary”. After you make your first choices, don’t forget to choose alternate (contingent or remainder) beneficiaries, too.
4. Choose someone to be your successor trustee. Your trust should name someone to serve as “successor trustee,” to manage the trust and property after you have died. Once you’ve made your choice, discuss it with the person you have in mind to make sure he or she is willing to take on this possition of responsibility.
5. Choose someone to manage children’s property. If children or young adults might inherit trust property, you should choose an adult to manage whatever they inherit. You can make him/her a guardian to give that person authority over the child’s property. A property custodian is authorized under a law called the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA), as a trustee.
6. Prepare the Management Worksheet, the Asset Checklist, and Statement of Wishes. After making your trust (which you can do yourself, or with assistance, you (and your spouse, if you made a trust together) must sign it in front of a Notary Public.
7. Transfer title of property to yourself as “trustee of the trust”. This is a crucial step that, unfortunately, some people never take. A transfer MUST be made to make your trust effective. You must hold title to trust property in your name as trustee – for example, if John Smith wants to hold real estate in his trust, he must prepare and sign a new deed transferring the real estate to John Smith, trustee of the John Smith Trust or it does NOT protect the property.
8. Store your trust document safely. Make copies and tell your successor trustee where each document is, and how to get access when necessary. Do NOT put it in a safety deposit box as it will become frozen and unavailable when it is needed.
9. Deliver an original copy (with original signatures) of the trust to the recorder or trust registry at www.TrustRegistry.net for additional safety and backup.